June 16, 2009
I don’t know why, but I’ve always thought of surgery as primarily a cerebral pursuit; a great surgeon is so because he’s clever and smart. A short passage from Gawande’s [commencement] address reveals that perhaps that’s not the case:
In surgery, for instance, I know that I have more I can learn in mastering the operations I do. So what does a surgeon like me do? We look to those who are unusually successful — the positive deviants. We watch them operate and learn their tricks, the moves they make that we can take home.
So surgeons learn surgery in the same way that kids learn Kobe Bryant’s post moves from SportsCenter highlights?
Actually, Gawande reminds me a little bit of Tony Gwynn’s method of obsessively recording pitchers to see what pitches they might use against him:
What began as a casual “let’s take a look at how I swing” Has developed into a Spielberg-like production.
On the road, Gwynn carries two extra bags packed with video equipment and supplies. He has tapes of himself against every pitcher he has faced in the National League, showing every at-bat he has been able to film.
In his hotel room, before every game, he uses a small video replay machine to review the tape of that night’s pitcher.
“I kind of take things to an extreme,” said Gwynn, who edits and compiles his own tapes. “I know all I have to do is see the ball and hit the ball and I will put my bat on the ball. I know that, but it’s not enough…
“I don’t keep a journal. Most of it is mental anyway. Once you watch these tapes as much as I do, you know. I think I would be as good a hitter without the tapes, but this is fine tuning. I really don’t look at myself that much, but rather I look at how the guy has pitched me in the past. Maybe they will try it again, maybe not. But it will be in my mind knowing what they might do, and that is an advantage to me as a hitter.”